Season Preview

2014 Season Preview: Jay Bruce

So, the thing about projecting the Reds’ lineup, is that it’s not filled with excitement so much as uncertainty. I don’t want it to be that way, but it is. Correspondingly, I am ready for a projection that’s a little more fun. Ladies and gentlemen, Jay Bruce…

Jay Bruce
2013 Slash Line: .262/.329/.478
2014 Projection: .255/.330/.500

2013 WAR: 4.6 (BBRef & FanGraphs average)
2014 Best Guess WAR: 4.5
Projected Difference: -0.1 WAR
2014 Floor: 2.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 7.5 WAR

Last year, Jay Bruce’s number were almost a perfect copy of his career numbers. It was hard to watch him and not think “this is who he is.” You know what? If that’s the case, the Reds are in pretty good shape because Bruce was really good last year. However, he is still only 27. I’m serious. This is his age-27 season. My wife and I saw his first game shortly before our wedding. We’ll be married six years in June. Jay Bruce is 27. Holy cow.

What that means is that he hasn’t hit the point at which we should expect a decline, nor has he hit the point at which we should stop hoping for that big Jay Bruce season we’ve all been waiting for.

Every projection system sees him improving offensively this year (if only a little), though there is some disagreement about his defense. I’m betting on Jay having another good year in the field. Further, though he started last year by striking out a lot, I looked at it pretty closely and I think that was an anomaly and he should see his k-rate come down a bit.

There is no reason for this to be anything other than a good season for Bruce and I’m hoping this can be the year he rips off a .270/.350/.540 year and puts himself in the MVP discussion. Now is as good a time as any.

37 thoughts on “2014 Season Preview: Jay Bruce

  1. From what I have seen from Bruce, I believe he will get even better. He hasn’t had any meteoric rise, like some would say “breakout” season. But, besides the (I believe) the bad defensive season he had 2 or 3 seasons ago, I believe he’s gotten a little better each season. Last season, I felt he learned to go to the opposite field a lot better, not allowing pitchers the outside corner on him as much and hitting weak dribblers. However, his offensive production can also be from having Choo and Votto on in front of him.

    I do believe Votto and Bruce will be able to feed off each other, at least when there isn’t a lefty on the mound (I would like to have a righty between them, but we don’t have any righties we can put between them). Bruce needs to keep thinking the opposite way when given those outside pitches. And, he needs to make more contact, not K so much. That’s it from what I see, keep going opposite field and don’t K so much.

    I don’t see the defense being a problem at all. He will be fine there.

    • @steveschoen: To me, last year was Bruce’s worst offensive season since 09. Not by a ton, it was still good, but it didn’t look like he got better to me. Walks were down, Ks were up, power was down. BA was low for having a high BABIP because of the Ks.

      I think stacking the lineup with lefties against a RH starter makes a lot more sense than breaking up the lefties for the 8th inning. Other teams do it to us all the time and it often works. Ask Bronson how much he likes facing a lineup full of lefties.

      • @al: Oh, I do agree to a degree. As I stated, Bruce needs to cut down on the K’s and make more contact. But, he did hit to the opposite field a lot better, increasing his BA by 80 points to the opposite field. K’s were up by about 20% over the previous year. But, his walks were actually up and not down like you said (62 in 2012, 63 in 2013). He lost some of his power, working on the opposite field hitting, I guess. But, working on becoming a more complete hitter, he also increased his RBI’s by 10, also. He also increased the number of overall hits, number of doubles, and his BA with RISP.

  2. Sign him now Walt to extensions past 2017 as Jay blows up this year big time. He steps up from being All-Star to Franchise player. He wants to sign with us and is great face of the club.

    Don’t let him go to another team Walt by not extending him now

  3. Jay Bruce is a good asset every year he plays. He showed some indicators of slight regression like a increase in strike outs, decrease in walks, as well as a decrease in HRs. I think that’s a product of being a free swinger there will be slight ups and downs. That being said he Jay Bruce is who he is. He will strike out a lot, hit a lot of HRs and draw few walks. Bruce is probably the easiest Red to project stats for. He will hit .250/.260, 30/35 HRs, 60/70 BBs, and 150/170 Ks.

  4. Yes it’s so early that it’s too early to say that it’s early, but nonetheless I like it that Bernadina is hitting and Santiago is not. I prefer Bernadina as the 25th man, if he can play close to his 2012 form. Both WJ and Price have said that it’s not a lock that a backup SS makes the major league roster.

  5. Bruce is a player we as fans tend to take for granted. With all the uncertainty on the team, isn’t it nice to be able to look at Bruce and say “Jay is who he is.” and not have that be a negative?

    1B, RF, and hopefully CF and C are set for the Reds for years to come.

  6. I’m just glad he will be batting 4th some this year. He is certainly capable of .285-.290, 35+ HR, and 120 RBI’s. Bruce took some positive steps forward last year as a player and I hope we see a progression of that even more this year.

  7. I do think Votto and Bruce will be able to feed off each other even more. I would rather have a righty splitting the two of them, also. But, we have no righy who is capable of doing that “and” be able to do what they can do batting back to back, as well.

    It’s going to be interesting, I believe, to see what other teams will do. Do they still pitch around Votto to get to Bruce? It’s not like they are pitching around Votto to get to BP or even Ludwick. Then, if they do pitch around Votto, then does that mean Bruce will be seeing more pitches to hit?

    If anyone is thinking Bruce had a bad year last year, consider this. ESPN’s baseball stats has his WAR in 2012 to be 1.4. His WAR in 2013? 5.1

  8. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed but last year when the TV cameras cut to the dugout, most of the time it would find Jay talking to the Master, J Votto. From the gestures shown, I don’t believe they were discussing where they were going for dinner after the game. Jay taking notes from Joey about hitting to the opposite field would explain the jump in LF batting average and can only be a plus for the team. I think that Jay will have a HUGE year and MVP discussions will ensue by the All-Star break. Having them bat back-to-back will be a nightmare for most opponents. I can’t wait for the season to start. Go REDS!

    • @Jeff in TN: They are best friends and have always talked a lot in the dugout, whether they talked more last year I cannot say. Are they always talking about hitting? I cannot say, but I would bet there are other things they talk about in the dugout-the pretty girl in the third row perhaps…

  9. Bruce’s value, in my mind (he’s my favorite Red, FYI) is actually split into both season-long and more chance/situational. He’s streaky as we know and we remember his 3-5 WAR every year because for 2-3 weeks at a time during the year he’s an absolutely unstoppable force. This, averaging with the remainder of the year generates his WAR, which is season-long. The other part of the value split is, using current events, what I’ll dub the “Ortiz Factor.” If we get to October, and #32 gets hot, I’m not sure it matters if he’s been 2.7 WAR or 4.6 WAR up to that point. In theory, you could say this about anyone. But with Bruce, more than any player I routinely follow, we have a slugger who can win a series, not just an inning or game. This value is numeric, but can it be measured? In either case, I can only dream of an October that involves the Reds and a locked-in Jay Bruce!

  10. Thanks Jason for taking the time to put together all these.

    I think that listing the two WAR numbers would provide some context on variance we might see in 2014 (ie your floor/ceiling numbers)

    WAR is such a shaky number since the defensive component is a bit of loose cannon, but it at least provides some food for thought.

  11. What happened to the progress we were supposed to have with Price? In a lineup that’s almost exactly what we’ll see on Opening Day (no DH and Mesoraco instead of Pena), why has Ludwick gone back to splitting up Votto and Bruce?

    On the bright side, Hamilton continues to just hit the ball.

    • @ToddAlmighty: Because of Ryu…even though he wasn’t the starter, he was gonna pitch early in the game. Tough lefty. I agree with the lineup, IF that’s why he did it.

  12. I seriously think Soto is going to take Hannahan’s job from him. Wally Pipp action in progress. 8-14, 4 2B, 1 HR….. I know it’s Spring Training, but in 139 AB last year Hannahan had 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR. Soto will end up with more XBH in 20 AB at this pace. Without Dusty, Veteranyness won’t be a factor hopefully.. so I guess it’d end up being a matter on if they’d be willing to swallow the money they gave Hannahan.

    • @ToddAlmighty: Hannahan is almost certainly going to open the season on the DL, probably the 60 day DL, so it won’t be a matter of ‘eating’ Hannahan’s contract, at least initially. I agree that Soto may very well force his way onto the 25 man roster since he is already on the 40 man roster and his bat is just exploding this spring training.

    • @ToddAlmighty: I believe Hannahan has mentioned that he was injured last year and is still recovering. I do not know if he will be effective this year, but I am not sure you would want Soto as your back up 3b/1b. Personally I think he is trade bait, so I hope he keeps hitting.

      • @redmountain: Trade bait? You’re thinking of the old Reds that used to trade for impact players like Latos. This is the new Reds. We’ll just wait for Hannahan to get healthy for for-ev-er and expect him to solve all our woes. :Lol:

  13. Many of us commented last April that we were surprised to see Jay hitting to the opposite field. The other thing he did to surprise us was working counts. That was a huge change in hitting philosophy for him. I’m enjoying what Fay is writing about him right now regarding pitch selection.

    Of his counting stats, his Strike Outs were up a bit last year even though his walks and home runs were level (or you could even argue down a bit.) Perhaps we may be in for a more surprises this year.

    • @TC: Jay’s efforts to take the ball the other way actually started in 2012. He just had little success going to left field in 2012 because almost all his efforts resulted in fly balls. In 2013, those fly balls turned into more line drives as he became more comfortable and skilled going to left.

      In Votto’s most recent conversation with Lance, Joey observed that he must try to hit the ball with power and authority to drive the ball deep, whereas Jay just has that natural power to drive the ball deep. This will be the 3rd season for Jay’s focus on hitting the ball where it’s pitched and driving the ball to all fields. I’m expecting both Jay and Joey to produce superior results at the plate this season.

      Oh, and somebody needs to tell Billy Hamilton that major league competition just isn’t this easy. I mean, slashing .417/.500/.500, are you kidding me? This is after slashing .368/.429/.474 at the end of last season at the major league level. Please, somebody talk to Billy before he starts believing he can do this on a regular basis like he did in the minor leagues before last season.

      • @Shchi Cossack: I do not think anyone believes ST stats are representative of how a player will hit during the regular season. Votto, for example, is not hitting much. With ML pitchers ST is the time to experiment with delivery and pitches so it is not the same as what they will do once the games start. In addition, who is he getting the hits off of, ML pitchers or guys who will be in the minors all season? I want him to be good, but am reluctant to take anything in September or early in ST as an indication of anything.

        • @redmountain: Sorry Red, the Old Cossack’s leathery, weathered features often mask the ol’ tongue in cheek observations. :wink:

  14. Pingback: Redleg Nation 2014 Season Preview: The Rest of the Rotation | Redleg Nation

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